Sacrifice is among the signs of Allah`s religion, His worship, and among the rituals of Hajj. The definition of sacrifice is that one offers an animal for and in the name of God the Almighty. This animal may be slaughtered either in the desert of Mina or in the city of Mecca, and offered to the poor.
The Kind Lord has said, “And (as for) the camels, We have made them of the signs of the religion of Allah for you; for you therein is much good; therefore mention the name of Allah on them as they stand in a row, then when they fall down eat of them and feed the poor man who is contented and the beggar; thus have We made them subservient to you, that you may be grateful.”1
The issue of proximity to the Lord through the act of sacrifice, as noted in the Holy Quran and the narrations of the Ahlul Bayt (PBUT) has been in practice since the existence of human societies. The Holy Quran reminds us that the killing of sheep and camels have been among ancient traditions of servanthood, one which Allah (SWT) has guided the previous servants towards this act of worship.
The Holy Quran has said, “And for every nation have We appointed a ritual, that they may mention the name of Allah over the beast of cattle that He has given them for food; and your god is One Allah, therefor surrender unto Him. And give good tidings (O Muhammad) to the humble”2
Also in regards to the ancient nature of this ritual the Quran adds, “And relate to them the story of the two sons of Adam with truth when they both offered an offering, but it was accepted from one of them and was not accepted from the other. He said: I will most certainly slay you. (The other) said: Allah only accepts from those who guard (against evil).”3
The act of worship has taken place with great importance among various nations in the presence of idols and idol houses including India, Rome, and Greece.
All prophets of the Bani Israel, as written in Torah, considered the act of sacrifice a worship, and they would seek proximity to the Lord through this, all until Prophet Isa (PBUH) was appointed as a prophet. The act of sacrifice was also norm in the Sharia of Prophet Isa (PBUH). And he would implement the Torah’s jurisprudence, as it was evident in the Gospels. In addition to the Gospels, Prophet Isa (PBUH) gave clear instructions regarding sacrifice. As an example, the Prophet would tell the ill and pain-stricken, and those who had wishes to sacrifice (an animal) and offer it to the temple and church.
But after Jesus Christ (PBUH) those who made a mockery of religion became his disciples and said that Christ gave himself up to killing, and retracted the act of sacrifice.
According to this, gaining proximity to Allah through the act of sacrifice was an accepted and normal act. This, until the Arabs changed the act of sacrifice, just as they had changed parts of the rituals of Hajj, and performed sacrifice for gaining proximity to idols. But Islam cleansed this act from becoming intertwined with the act of Shirk, and placed it solely for the name of the One God, inviting Muslims to the pure soul and righteous act of sacrifice, which is highly influential in their acts being accepted.
Along these lines the Holy Quran says, “There does not reach Allah their flesh nor their blood, but to Him is acceptable the guarding (against evil) on your part; thus has He made them subservient to you, that you may magnify Allah because He has guided you aright; and give good news to those who do good (to others).”4
In the religion of Islam, the act of sacrifice is enlivening the tradition of Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) and the remembrance of the blessings of Allah to that prophet and the people in placing the sacrifice (of an animal) instead of his son, Ismaeel (PBUH). It is also a reference to this issue that Ibrahim and Ismail (PBUT) were for the pious in the utmost faith and submission to Divine Order. Sacrifice is also a code and a symbol for killing the Nafs e Ammara5, cutting off the roots of lowness and darkness of character, and freeing oneself from the prison of this world into a life full of virtue, and destructing one’s desires in the way and will of the Lord.
According to the above, the sacrificial tradition is among the Lord’s ancient traditions of divine religions, of which is based on gaining proximity to the Lord. Therefore, even though the sacrifice itself will be used by the people, and specifically by the poor, the condition of its acceptance however, depends on the righteousness and pureness of intention of the doer of the act. In essence this act is a symbol, a key to fighting evil and killing the Nafs e Ammara and controlling one’s desires.
(Selection taken from the book The Philosophy and the Secrets of Hajj by the Late Ayatullah Mohammad Emami Najafi Khawansari)
Congratulations to all Muslims and especially you dear friend
on the auspicious occasion of the Eid al-Adha
A time of freeing oneself from all chains, and attaching oneself to the Giver of Life
1. Holy Quran 22:36
2. Holy Quran 22:34
3. Holy Quran 5:27
4. Holy Quran 22:37
5. Mesbah al-Sharia, p. 47